Ramblings: Bobrovsky Returns, Malkin Hurt, Spezza Sniping (Mar. 12)

by steve laidlaw on March 12, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Bobrovsky Returns, Malkin Hurt, Spezza Sniping (Mar. 12)

Ramblings: Bobrovsky Returns, Malkin Hurt, Spezza Sniping and more.

Oh goodness, Evgeni Malkin, here we go again with the superstar injuries. Malkin recorded a pair of assists last night but had to leave the game with a lower-body injury and will be re-evaluated today.

The Penguins hung on for a victory against the feisty Blue Jackets but I have to say that this Malkin injury is frightening to their playoff hopes. They are just three up on the hard-charging Flyers (more on them later.) Any slippage and this team could miss the playoffs entirely. The upshot, I suppose, is that they’d get their first rounder back.

When Malkin was hurt previously, Matt Cullen stepped into his minutes alongside Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel but last night it was Nick Bonino. Bonino would have had those minutes the last time but he was hurt at the same time as Malkin. So maybe there is a boost for Bonino if Malkin misses more time.

We might also see Justin Schultz gain some more power-play minutes if Malkin misses time. The Penguins have been using Kris Letang on both units of late, with Schultz acting as the second defenseman on the second unit. He could easily get bumped up here even as he saw only 10:13 for total ice time last night.


Sergei Bobrovsky made his return for Columbus and played fairly well stopping 28 of 31 but that won’t cut it for fantasy owners. Still, I could definitely see him having another strong run to close the season. I like the way the Blue Jackets are playing and Bob has legit show-stopping ability.

Similar to the way that Winnipeg sent Connor Hellebuyck to the minors when they go Ondrej Pavelec back, the Blue Jackets returned Joonas Korpisalo to the minors despite a good run. The Jackets are saying that this is for Korpisalo’s development and I tend to agree. He’s better off continuing to get reps in the minors than sitting on the bench behind Bobrovsky, especially since the Blue Jackets farm team has a shot at some playoff games.

Cam Atkinson scored his fifth goal in the last five games. He is turning it on, up to career highs in goals (24) and points (44). Everything he produces from here on out is gravy and he should get up to 50 points pretty easily. Now the question is if he hits 55. Probably not, but with 15 games remaining it is within the realm of possibility.

What’s really interesting is how much damage Atkinson has done without a whole lot of power-play production. He has just six PPP on the year after recording 10 last year. He gets a reasonable amount of power-play time (2:10 per game) but is more of a second unit guy. Perhaps that should change?

Atkinson’s shooting percentage is high 12.5% but not exorbitantly so. More importantly, his on-ice shooting percentage is right around league average so he isn’t benefitting from some crazy amount of good fortune. Instead, he has been one of the better 5-on-5 scorers in the league this season averaging 2.01 points per 60 minutes played, which is right around the average of guys like Vladimir Tarasenko, Sean Monahan, Jason Spezza, Mike Hoffman, Brad Marchand, Henrik Sedin and Anze Kopitar to name a few. Check out the full list, it’s actually quite illuminating.

This is a really big step forward for Atkinson, who scored around 1.5 points per 60 minutes through his first two full seasons in the league. That’s the difference in about an extra point every eight games or so, which over 82 games really adds up. If Atkinson nabs a bigger power-play role somewhere down the line, along with this improvement at even strength, Atkinson would be on his way to a 60-point season or better. This is a bit far-fetched but the way that Atkinson is closing this season out is opening up some interesting possibilities.


As mentioned previously, the Flyers continue to make a big push having won three straight and six of their last seven. The recent three have all come with Steve Mason in goal and the Flyers continue to play stout hockey in front of him. He has not yet faced 20 shots in a game since returning from injury having faced just 56 shots in three games. That’s some crazy defense. Great way to shelter what I would consider a questionable goalie. Mason is available in a third of Yahoo! leagues so it’s doubtful he is available to many of you who he might actually help but you never know.

Meanwhile, Mason’s backup Michal Neuvirth is available in 48% of Yahoo! leagues. He should get the start against the Panthers tonight, if you care to risk starting a goalie in a back-to-back on the road. I generally try to avoid those situations.

Brayden Schenn remained hot scoring his 20th point since the All-Star break, good for eighth in the league in that stretch. Probably too late to hop on that bandwagon though.

What has helped the Flyers on their recent hot streak is getting some depth scoring. For instance, Sam Gagner, who scored last night, has five goals in the last nine games. No assists, mind you, but in deep formats you might be able to find a home for Gagner.


Our old friend Alessandro Seren Rosso sits down with Evgeny Medvedev to discuss his plans for the future:

What are your plans for the summer?

– We’ll go to Russia for a month, a month and a half. All depends on my future career. If I’ll sign a contract here [in Philadelphia] or with another team. But I really want to stay.

Medvedev hasn’t been very impactful on the fantasy front but he is also breaking into a new league at age 33 so the hiccups have come as expected. He has recently been a frequent healthy scratch but I do think that if given another shot with Philadelphia he has a little more offense, perhaps 30-point upside. But with Gostisbehere, Streit and Michael Del Zotto all ahead of him, to say nothing of the stock of defense prospects the Flyers have knocking on the door, there may not be room for Medvedev. Keep an eye out this summer to see where he lands, if anywhere.


Vladimir Tarasenko went off last night with a pair of unassisted late goals, one of which was into an empty net. Three points in all for Tarasenko but we all know he is good. What was really interesting was that the last four goals of last night’s game were all unassisted, which is like the worst thing in fantasy hockey as goalies are getting shelled but few players are actually getting points.

More interesting than Tarasenko is that Jori Lehtera scored. He has been centering Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, which is such a good spot he should be producing damn near a point-per-game pace. Hasn’t been happening but he’s worth a look in deeper leagues or if you need a waiver wire option.

Minor bit of news for the Blues as they announced an extension for Carl Gunnarson, giving him three more years at $2.9 million per season, which is actually a slight paycut for the defenseman who had a cap hit of $2.95 million this season.

Decent signing for the Blues as defense is clearly their strength and they now have six defensemen locked up for next season. Puts them in a solid position to trade from strength if they flame out again and decide to get ahead of things and trade Kevin Shattenkirk.

That Shattenkirk trade is a reasonably plausible scenario. Colton Parayko’s emergence gives the team options and with about $57 million committed to 16 players next season (according to cap friendly) they have about $13 million to re-sign David Backes (UFA), Troy Brouwer (UFA) and Jaden Schwartz (RFA) as well as fill out those last couple of roster spots.

The Blues traded TJ Oshie for Brouwer at least in part to create a cleaner cap sheet this summer so you can assume Brouwer is gone unless he takes a pay cut. Fitting Backes and Schwartz into about $10 million in cap space (assuming the other $3 million is to fill out the rest of the roster and/or provide flexibility) will be quite the challenge. Not an enviable position.

The takeaway, however, is that the Blues are well-set defensively, which bodes well for Jake Allen next season.


Tough loss for the Ducks, their third in a row. I suppose they were due given they had previously been on an 11-game winning streak but the timing isn’t great for fantasy owners as we are either already in or fighting for head-to-head playoffs.

Freddie Andersen was in net allowing four goals on just 22 shots. Back to John Gibson? I’ve said it plenty recently. I am done handicapping this situation so don’t ask.

The Ducks were indeed without Sami Vatanen due to an upper-body injury. All they are really giving us is a “day-to-day” prognosis. The Ducks don’t go again until Monday so perhaps he’ll be ready by then. They didn’t make any moves to replace Vatanen as they had been carrying Clayton Stoner and Korbinian Holzer on the roster. Holzer got in last night.

The Ducks also lost Kevin Bieksa to injury last night, which could really stretch them if both Bieksa and Vatanen miss time. Maybe now they make the call to San Diego for our favourite son Shea Theodore.

As I indicated when Vatanen first went down, grabbing Theodore now before he actually gets the call isn’t a terrible move. We will certainly know by Monday if there is movement so if your playoffs start then you will be ahead of the game. The Ducks have a great schedule next week too.


I saw nothing but complaints on Twitter about the Stars’ lines getting mixed around again before last night’s game but this is always the case with the Stars’ lines. Lindy Ruff just likes to do the monster mash. I suppose some just haven’t caught on in a flash. No matter the mix it’s pretty much always the same guys finding the scoreboard anyhow.

Last night it was Jason Spezza extending his goal streak to five games. Spezza has nine goals in 13 games since the All-Star break. He also added an assist for his 800th point. He has had one heck of a run of longevity and he’s only 32. I could see Spezza hanging around for five or six more years before the wheels really start to fall off. He has the kind of vision that keeps guys relevant even after they lose their top gear.

Also with two-point nights: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Ales Hemsky. So it was the usual suspects, plus Hemsky who did the damage. Pretty simple stuff.

I shouldn’t necessarily throw rocks at the attention paid to line adjustments given how much attention I give that stuff in these ramblings but I do feel like sometimes you just have to pay attention to the studs on a team and forget the rest.

All that said, Kris Russell was used on the top power-play unit last night. No points, however.


The Stars chased Corey Crawford with four goals on 20 shots, midway through the second period. This is not entirely surprising. Crawford’s splits are fairly well-known at this point. He just isn’t as good on the road.

Marian Hossa returned to the lineup and indeed he was skating with Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews. Here comes the line chart!














Tough luck, Andrew Shaw.

No points for Hossa either.


Dennis Wideman returned from his suspension a whole game early! The independent arbitrator actually ruled to reduce his suspension from 20 games to just 10 but Wideman has already missed 19. Still, Wideman becomes an option to consider for those hammered by the recent run of defenseman injuries. Not a great option but an option nonetheless.

Wideman will get back about a quarter million in salary for his troubles.

From the sounds of it, the NHL can still take this further, fighting the arbitrator’s decision in court. I wonder if they will go that far and how that would affect Wideman’s potential return.

In his return, Wideman skated 18 minutes but led the Flames defense in power-play time. No points. No shots either. I’d consider him the #3 option behind Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, while TJ Brodie is out.


Antoine Vermette has six points in five games this month but all that damage has come in two multi-point games. I’m not sure there is enough offense in Arizona while Oliver Ekman-Larsson is out for anyone to be particularly relevant. The minutes and opportunity are there for Vermette, however. I’m not recommending a pickup unless you are in an extremely deep league but I figure I’d comment since you’ve probably seen the gaudy scoring of late.

Ekman-Larsson remains day-to-day with a bruised shoulder. He might be able to go against Edmonton tonight but I’m not counting on it.


PK Subban will not be able to play today after suffering a neck injury that required hospitalization. They aren’t calling the injury a serious one so hopefully he doesn’t miss much time. This will be the first game of his career that he misses due to injury, however. Maybe look for Mark Barberio to grab some more power-play time.


The Rangers provided a bunch of updates for us yesterday:

They also indicated that Henrik Lundqvist is ready to play after missing time with neck spasms. The Rangers have a back-to-back playing today in Detroit and then at home tomorrow against the Penguins. Odds are we see Antti Raanta for one of those two, likely the back half so Raanta remains a decent option for those in need of goaltending.

As for all those skaters who are returning, here’s what I project for lines:

JT Miller – Derick BrassardMats Zuccarello

Chris KreiderDerek StepanRick Nash

Oscar LindbergEric StaalKevin Hayes

Viktor StalbergDominic MooreJesper Fast

I could be wrong on that but this is what I’m looking to see. Watch for JT Miller to lose some minutes with Nash back. Miller did score in their last game against Buffalo but was scoreless in the previous eight games. If he’s not producing it will be easy to lop him off the power play and out of the top six.


The latest on Jason Pominville:


The Oilers activated Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off of IR yesterday. He’ll find his way into the mix for power-play time and may even get some decent linemates. At worst, he’s getting Nail Yakupov on one wing. This is Connor McDavid’s team now, however, so don’t look for #1 treatment here. Also, the Oilers have less games than anyone left so I wouldn’t fall over myself to add Nugent-Hopkins.


Some goodies in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:

20. One of the biggest questions about Mike Richards was going to be endurance. Start in the middle of the season and you’ve got a lot of guys to catch up to. You could see early on that he was slowing down 20-25 seconds into a shift. But, he’s moving past that and its having a positive effect. What’s worked out really nicely for Washington is Backstrom and TJ Oshie are spending less time killing penalties. Richards leads all Capitals forwards with 2:17 of short-handed ice time per game. The other two now get approximately 18 minutes a night at even-strength or on the power play because they aren’t needed as much on the penalty kill.

Subtle things like this can go a long way to helping the studs on teams stay fresh. Even if it isn’t helping Backstrom or Oshie to score more points, it is keeping the wear and tear down, which could be helping them to avoid injuries.


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Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of Dobber Hockey. Follow him @SteveLaidlaw.